South Korea is now the second most-affected country in the coronavirus outbreak after China. As of Sunday, February 23, the World Health Organization reported 602 confirmed cases and five deaths linked to the virus.
The sharp increase in cases has led the South Korean president to raise the infectious disease alert to its highest level. The maximum threat alert gives the government the power to quarantine cities and ban the movement of people both into and within the country.
On Saturday, the US Department of State issued a level-two travel warning for South Korea: “Exercise Increased Caution due to an outbreak of COVID-19.” Hong Kong has asked its residents to avoid all non-essential travel to South Korea, Reuters reports.
The outbreak in South Korea is linked to a gathering of members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in the town of Daegu. According to the New York Times, “More than half of all the patients in the country are either members of Shincheonji or their relatives and other contacts.” Most of the cases in South Korea are located in the town of Daegu.
The South Korean government is keeping daycares closed for the moment, and schools will remain shut until March 9, 2020. Church-goers have been asked to stay home and large outdoor gatherings have been banned.